Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Let the fight for basic decency begin

Gov. Phil Bredesen's budgetary cutbacks defy any sense of reaffirming values and simple compassion -- particularly when the state is sitting on a big Rainy Day Fund.

His specific attack on TennCare is aimed directly at the working poor who have suffered the misfortune of a loved one struck down by disease.

The governor -- supposedly a Democrat -- would cut $90 million from a TennCare program that pays medical expenses for "medically needy" families plummeting into poverty from mushrooming medical bills. The cuts would prevent expansion of the program to 100,000 Tennesseans who already are having to deal with a slowing economy and rising gas prices.

How important is that program?

One cannot begin to fathom the heartache and stress from such an upheaval, and I can write from personal experience tied to my ongoing battle with leukemia and the devastating impact upon my family and its finances. Much to our shame, we've been forced to file for financial assistance with Vanderbilt University Medical Center for our bills tied to my leukemia and related maladies like diabetes and broken bones from a quadruple drop in my bone density. While chemo can save a life for the moment, it can also devastate other parts of the body.

So far, I've broken both my arms at the elbow and my left collarbone. Unbeknownst to my wife, I let a broken bone in my hand go untreated because of the cost of visiting a orthopedic specialist, $40, and accompanying X-rays. The broken bone was not out of line, so the pain was all that I had to endure.

I don't write this to elicit any sympathy but to show how much every dollar means to families crushed under medical expenses. Household finance fortunes can reverse so quickly. And the stress from not knowing how you're going to pay your bills, keep your home and educate your children is worse than the most nauseous chemo reaction or piercing bone pain.

People will say that folks like us could just sell our homes to pay bills. But two houses on our street have been for sale for a year now. The subprime mortgage mess has screwed up the real estate market.

Bredesen doesn't like TennCare. His business background is in making money off health care, not primarily helping those in need. He promised to fix TennCare when he ran for office. Then he gutted it when he got into office. And in keeping with his bizarre view of value in the world, he proposes in his budget to keep $100 million in an economic development fund while cutting TennCare.

Recently, Bredesen gained a lot of national attention for proposing a way to settle the superdelegate mess for the national Democratic Party. Thankfully, Democrats gave him little attention and respect. That's because this nation is in a presidential campaign focused on providing more health care to needy Americans, not take it away like Bredesen has done and will do.

For the sake of basic decency, his cuts should not be balanced on the backs of families already laden with mounting medical bills. Many Tennesseans in their lives are suffering a rainy day. So why not use more of the Rainy Day Fund to fund budget cuts?

Rest assured, Gov. Bredesen, that those of us with leukemia and other maladies will not let your cuts go forward without a ferocious fight.

In the end, the rainy day may be coming down politically on you in deserved sheets of hail and wind.

(In the ethical interest of full disclosure, I have never been on TennCare; neither have members of my family.)


GingerSnaps said...

...the stress from not knowing how you're going to pay your bills, keep your home and educate your children is worse than the most nauseous chemo reaction or piercing bone pain.

Tim, I commend you for sharing such a personal experience in order to get the point across that this state's citizens are hurting. You have my utmost admiration.

Best wishes,

Newscoma said...

I agree with Ginger and I'm glad to see you blogging.

kateanon said...

Ditto what they've said. I've been in a similar spot, and I wasn't nearly as eloquent about it.

I'll keep you & your family in my thoughts

Sharon Cobb said...

I'm a little late in finding out you're blogging.

It's so good to see you over here.

I look forward to reading your posts, and I hope your health will improve.

I think I'll be seeing you soon at a THCC event in June.